All Photographs + Text Copyright 2006 Christopher Keeley
I had already done two stints at local psych wards: the first time was as a high school senior at age 17, after becoming psychotic after smoking PCP; the second, at age 22. As an example of how God was looking out for me when I was unable to look out for myself, my psychiatrist at 17 just happened to be the father of one of my friends at school. Although he has since passed, and I have not seen his daughter in years, I still consider that family to be good friends. I wish I had listened to that doctor, because he told me then that I should completely stop using all drugs, including alcohol. It was a miracle that I was not permanently insane.
On December 1, 1993, at the age of 23, I woke up feeling sick and tired. I dragged myself across the street to the local liquor store, bought a pint of grain alcohol, then shuffled back across the street to the Metro station. I dejectedly hid the bottle under my coat, dropped the coins in the machine, and pulled out the ticket. My destination was the detox at D.C. General.
The previous night, I had driven my car down to Hains Point, an island in the Potomac. What I did not realize was that the island had been blocked off and was flooding. It was a miracle I escaped in time. After arriving home in a stupor, I called someone -- a friend's girlfriend. The following morning I awoke beside her. This was the last straw (I thought). The shame of what I had done was gnawing away at my soul. Some friend I was.
A week later, I was out. I had been attending meetings and truly did want to be clean. However, I was not willing to do everything necessary to stay clean, including let go of my old friends. This proved a nearly fatal mistake.
Twenty days later, I was using again. I stayed high for the next month and a half. During that brief period, I fought my best friend, continually abused my family, and received walking papers from my employer. I proceeded to drink and smoke drugs daily.
During January 1994, I got completely wasted. I had a rental car and decided I would "drive into the country." During this trip, I was stopped by a Maryland State Trooper for doing over 100 in a 65. Incredibly, the officer did not realize I had been drinking, because I had filled the car with cigarette smoke before rolling down the window. Today I know that God sent me that officer to help me -- but still I would not listen.
I continued to drive. Eventually, I ended up in the mountains of West Virginia, during a snowstorm. The car could go no further, and I realized that I had not brought any money with me!
I pulled into a gas station, which happened to be right next door to a hotel. I had no idea what to do, but I knew that if I stayed outside, I would run out of gas and freeze to death. Even the hotel itself was at the top of a hill, and the driveway leading upwards was covered in a sheet of ice. I knew what needed to be done.
I made my way, slowly but surely, up the treacherous ice ramp. About an hour later, I found myself at the hotel lobby. The last thing I wanted to do was ask for help, but I had no choice. I called my sponsor and told him what had happened. He replied that I should hold on, no matter what -- that it would get better. I figured he was just saying it because he didn't know what else to say, but I still felt comforted.
Ashamed and hopeless, I called a series of friends and family. One after the other said they could not help me. Finally, the father of my best friend from grade school offered to let me use his credit card. For the next week, I holed up in the room, waiting for the weather to clear up. My only sustenance was liquor ordered through room service, as I couldn't even keep any food down.
While holed up in the hotel, the phone rang. It was my sponsor. He said that my homegroup had gathered together a collection to help get me home. I couldn't even answer him. All I could do was weep uncontrollably. That was my first experience with the true, unconditional love that can come from the rooms of Narcotics Anonymous. I'm even crying again now, just thinking about it.
When the snow cleared, I headed home. I vaguely remembered from a meeting that the Steps talked about "making amends." Although I do not suggest that a newcomer attempt to make amends without consulting with a sponsor, I did so in this instance. I returned a keyboard I had recently purchased, which was valued at almost exactly the amount of money I had charged on my friend's fathers' credit card -- about $300. Today I am also eternally grateful to him, because he saved my life and did not even know it.
Shortly after returning home, I checked into my last rehab, in Crofton, Maryland. That was on Groundhog Day, February 2, 1994. Through the grace of God and the fellowship of Narcotics Anonymous, I have stayed clean ever since. I will never forget the people that loved me when I did not even love myself, even the law enforcement people who had taken me to jails and hospitals when I was using. Every day I hope and I pray that I am able to pass to the newcomer the same love that was so freely given to me.